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Saddle up for the 7 best star-studded western movies

Writer: Casey Chong


The seven unlikely heroes, led by Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm.

Justice has a number. And that number happens to be seven gunmen in the Old West coming together to protect the town from a band of outlaws. If that little plot sounds somewhat familiar, it is because "The Magnificent Seven" is making a big-budget comeback after 56 years since the John Sturges' 1960 iconic version of the same name.

Just like the 1960 version, Antoine Fuqua's expensive remake is packed with recognisable Hollywood stars including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Byung-Hun and Peter Sarsgaard.

Whether or not the brand new "Magnificent Seven" would make a six-shooter killing at the box office remains to be seen, but right now, saddle up and check out our handpicked list of seven best star-studded Western movies ever made.

1. "The Magnificent Seven" (1960)

The original cast of "The Magnificent Seven", led by Yul Brynner.

Antoine Fuqua's version may have been a remake of John Sturges' Western classic of the same name, but did you know the 1960 version itself a remake of an original movie? That original movie in question is Akira Kurosawa's 1954 black-and-white Japanese classic, "Seven Samurai", in which Sturges took the inspiration for his Hollywood remake. While the central premise (seven unlikely heroes join forces to defend the village against an outlaw gang) remains the same, the significant difference in "The Magnificent Seven" is the genre transition from Samurai to Western elements. Blessed with a fine all-star ensemble including the likes of Yul Brynner ("The King And I"), Steve McQueen ("The Great Escape") and Charles Bronson ("Death Wish") as well as a timeless story that worked well within its Western movie template, "The Magnificent Seven" is no doubt one of the most iconic Western classics to ever grace the big screen. And speaking of iconic, who could forget the Elmer Bernstein rousing score that later became a signature theme music for Marlboro cigarettes?

2. "Once Upon A Time In The West" (1968)

Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda in "Once Upon A Time In The West".

If Sergio Leone's "Man With No Name" a.k.a. "Dollars" trilogy is the heart of the spaghetti western genre, then "Once Upon A Time In The West" represents the soul of its very element. This epic masterpiece is famous for Ennio Morricone's unique musical experiments, while the perfectly brooding Charles Bronson is spot-on as the nameless stranger with a harmonica and the blue-eyed Henry Fonda well-cast as the ruthless killer Frank.

And of course, Sergio Leone's magnum opus of a spaghetti western epic is also best known for its legendary opening scene. Deliberately paced with full of anticipation, Leone incorporates various sound effects such as dripping water and buzzing fly to generate suspense as we witness three hired gunmen waiting patiently for the arrival of a train. The scene unfolds slowly as it gradually leads to a Mexican standoff between Charles Bronson's nameless character and the three gunmen. Right before the shootout starts breaking the silence, Charles Bronson even gets to mutter the movie's memorable line, "You brought two too many..."

3. "The Wild Bunch" (1969)

The ageing outlaws settled for one last score in "The Wild Bunch".

This isn't your granddaddy Western that romanticised the genre, but more of a revisionist version which doesn't shy away from the harsh reality of the bygone era and most of all... violence. In "The Wild Bunch", which tells of a gang of ageing outlaws settling for one last score in Mexico, was hugely controversial upon its release back in 1969. Bleak, nihilistic and downright pessimistic with the way director Sam Peckinpah depicted the violent world of the Wild West, "The Wild Bunch" is uncompromisingly brutal even viewed by today's standards. The ensemble cast, led by the no-nonsense William Holden ("Stalag 17", "The Bridge On The River Kwai" and "The Towering Inferno") and Ernest Borgnine (best known for his TV role in "Airwolf"), is top-notch. "The Wild Bunch" is also best known for Sam Peckinpah's then-revolutionised filmmaking approach of shooting his action set-pieces in slow-motion. That's right, the violent slow-motion gunfights have long existed here way before John Woo got known for the same trademark.

4. "Silverado" (1985)

(L-R) Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn and Danny Glover in "Silverado".

By the time Hollywood entered the '80s era, the Western genre began falling out of favour with the big-budget notable flop of Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" being one of the prime examples. However, there is one starry Western movie in the '80s that deserved a mention here. Written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan (best known for some of his most recognisable screenwriting works including "Raiders Of The Lost Ark, "Return Of The Jedi" and "The Bodyguard"), "Silverado" is packed with every essential Western staple that made the genre so beloved back in the glory days. The story, in the meantime, is a familiar setup: A gang of unlikely heroes team up to save the town from a ruthless sheriff and his army of crooks. The movie is also blessed with familiar faces including the likes of Kevin Kline, Kevin Costner, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, John Cleese and Jeff Goldblum.

5. "Unforgiven" (1992)

Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood in "Unforgiven".

Clint Eastwood is synonymous with the Western genre, going way back to the '60s when he was first known for his iconic "Man With No Name" character in Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy. Some of his Westerns, including the one where he directed as well, are the best ever seen. Then there is the multiple Oscar-winning "Unforgiven", a revisionist Western that explores the brooding age of the Old West. Eastwood, who also starred and directed the movie, doesn't sugarcoat the genre with all the familiar Western mythology most viewers have grown accustomed to in the past. In fact, Eastwood's character as William Munny isn't your typical noble gunman but actually a former outlaw with a dark past. The movie isn't particularly action-packed either, but Eastwood isn't set out to do a Western movie that bores the viewers to sleep. Instead, "Unforgiven" is a well-made moody Western blessed with a thought-provoking script and an excellent cast. Apart from Eastwood's perfectly no-nonsense performance, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman round up the strong cast.

6. "Tombstone" (1993)

(L-R) Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Kurt Russell and Bill Paxton in "Tombstone".

The legendary US marshal of Wyatt Earp is given a '90s makeover in "Tombstone", an action-packed Western movie designed to satisfy both the old and young crowd. Thanks to George P. Cosmatos' ("Rambo: First Blood Part II" and "Cobra") fast-paced direction, "Tombstone" is entertaining enough with an extra boost from a great all-star cast. Kurt Russell is right on the money as Wyatt Earp while the rest of the actors including Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton and Powers Boothe all provide strong support. Of course, there is Val Kilmer, who gives a scene-stealing performance as the drunken Doc Holliday.

7. "Django Unchained" (2012)

Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx in "Django Unchained".

While there are fewer successes of Western movies in the 2010s, writer-director Quentin Tarantino proved that there's still life in this age-old genre. In his first attempt at directing a Western movie, Tarantino took inspiration from the Sergio Corbucci-directed and Franco Nero-starring 1966 Italian Western classic, "Django", for "Django Unchained" and made it his own. Likewise, Tarantino knows well how to pay homage to the classic genre (in this case, spaghetti western) and packs his movie with a strong all-star cast including Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. Ever a filmmaker who doesn't shy away from attracting controversy, Tarantino filled the screen with lots of racial slurs especially the relentless use of N-word as well as the violent depiction of slavery.

"The Magnificent Seven" opens in cinemas nationwide on 22 September 2016.

Cinema Online, 20 September 2016

Related Movies:
The Magnificent Seven (22 Sep 2016)
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